Two-time former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld (Known and Unknown: A Memoir, 2011) condenses the rules that he claims shaped, and were shaped by, a lifetime in business and public service.
The author packages his previous memoir about his life and times into a breezier format organized around a collection of maxims, which he presents at the end in a 25-page appendix. The author writes that he has collected these thoughts throughout much of his career, and here, he assembles them in a straightforward, uninspiring book. Rumsfeld has been involved in public policy since he became a congressional aide in 1957 and brings his experience to bear in discussing the defense bureaucracy and how it has grown over time. His maxims include aphorisms, observations and quotes from Sun Tzu and Confucius, W.H. Auden and David Hume, among many others. Examples: “Never hire anyone you can't fire”; “The way to do well is to do well”; “Remember where you came from.” Here, readers can discover Rumsfeld's thoughts on how to apply for a job, accompanied by reminiscences of people he has hired, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who became an aide in President Richard Nixon's Office of Economic Opportunity. Disappointingly but perhaps predictably, Rumsfeld does not provide new insight into the events that (often negatively) shaped the latter part of his career—e.g., the problematic nonexistence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the torture at Abu Ghraib and the disastrous governmental failures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Nonessential. The collection offers an occasionally intriguing but hardly revelatory view of the author’s career, but reader response will likely hinge on political affiliation.